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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Michael Gray - Mr. Gay Wellington 2010

Posted in: Hall of Fame
By Matt Akersten - 8th November 2009

Here he is, your Mr. Gay Wellington winner for 2010, chosen in front of a capacity crowd at The Garden Club at the end of October.

26-year-old Opera singer Michael's been busy in Rotorua at the NZ Aria competition, but we managed to catch up with him for a quick Q&A session, where he shares his coming out story, tells us what kinds of guys he likes, and reveals his hopes and dreams for the future. Well done on becoming Mr. Gay Wellington 2010! What did you have to do on stage to win?

Michael Gray
Michael: The competition was in three stages, the first being Open wear, followed by Summer wear, and finishing with Night wear with questions from Aaron and Andy in each round. It was fantastic to see each people's interpretation of the sections - In the night wear section we had people dressed from pyjama pants to suit and tie.

Were you nervous?

Even though I am a performer, and have had to do some rather intimate things on stage before, it is always slightly daunting getting up on stage in front of a large number of gay men in your speedos. However I have learnt from performing that you just have to leave any issues you have at the door and be yourself. I think that always shines through.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born, and subsequently grew up in the cold depths of Dunedin. After high school, I spent six years at Otago University which has a fantastic student life and a wonderful gay community. Dunedin holds a very dear place in my heart, even though (like Wellington) it can be a little chilly at times.

Where do you live, and what do you think of the place?

Michael struts his stuff on stage
Since Feb I have been residing in Wellington and I live in a very central apartment with three other flatmates. I love being only a few minutes' walk from the gym and from work. I walk everywhere as I don't need a car - it's not quite as nice in those howling southerlies, but its good exercise.

What do you do for work or study?

I lead a very busy and engaging life with both work and study. I work almost full time in the government sector doing IT things, and am also completing my Masters degree full time in a thing called Performance Voice - Which is academic speak for Classical Singing/Opera. I don't know how you can do two full time jobs at the same time, but I seem to fit everything in - and I do still find time for the gym and social time!

How did you get started singing and involved with Opera and where has it taken you?

I was about six years old when I started singing in my first school choir and since then it has occupied a large part of my life and a very special place in my heart. After my Honours year at Otago, I interned with the NBR NZ Opera in 2007 and 2008 working on a number of Operas and am currently studying with a fantastic teacher here at the NZ School of Music in Wellington.

Singing can be a fantastic way to travel - I have travelled to some very intriguing destinations including Russia, Hungary and Slovenia. I travel domestically frequently and earlier this year I spent 6 weeks in Italy and the UK studying languages. Although that may sound glamorous it is always hard work and difficult when you are moving around a lot, however I love meeting new people and immersing myself in new and different cultures - I wouldn't have it any other way!

If you want to know more about what I am up to -

When did you come out as gay, and what was it like for you at the time?

I actually came out when I was in my final year at the infamous Otago Boys' High School - One of the other prefects at school saw me dirty dancing with, and kissing, a boy on the dance floor at a club a week after my 18th birthday. I turned up at school on Monday, and naturally, everyone in the entire school knew! But I went in with my head held high, and the funny thing was that none of the senior boys gave me any flack about it - they stood up for me even! It seems strange to say that I respect and thank-them for accepting me, and what's more, respecting me. I really hope that I helped the gay and bisexual boys at that school know that if you are honest with yourself you can earn the respect of your fellow schoolmates... Even the biggest, most-macho, rugby boys- as I found out!

Do you have a partner? What kind of guys do you most admire?

I am currently single. I admire people who have a passion for life, who are always striving for excellence every-day, and people who have integrity. (And I go weak at the knees for a killer smile).

What do you think are the biggest issues currently facing NZ's gay population?

I feel that we have come so far as a country, especially comparing the civil liberties we enjoy with those of other countries where the gay population does not enjoy the same freedom and acceptance that we, here, have created. However I think that as a community, we cannot forget where we have come from and all of the work that so many people in the community have done on our behalf, fighting for the rights of future generations.

It is possible to lose that traction, and I think that we need to secure funding for community services like Outline and NZAF who do so much good in the community - It would be a sad day if those services who provide so much support for people were to fade away.

What's your worst habit?


Michael with last year's winner Jade
I am incredibly busy and work a lot and sometimes I don't always give myself the downtime that I need.

Your biggest fear?

Having regrets in life. I try to give my best to every opportunity in life- living it to the fullest!

Which books are you currently reading and recommending?

I am currently reading a fantastic book called "The American Future - A history" by Simon Schama which chronicles the difficulties America is currently facing by analysing the USA's rich history. (I do love something a little less dense though - Harry Potter is fantastic)

Your favourite music at the moment?

My favorite music is usually the work/works that I am rehearsing at the moment - I am preparing for a concert in Auckland on the 29th of November ( in which I am singing Monteverdi's Christmas Vespers.

Your favourite movies?

I have recently been on a Hitchcock bent - Rear window, Rebecca, Dial M for Murder. However I am a sucker for a good comedy - Easy Virtue was the last film I saw at the theatre. (And Harry Potter)

Your favourite TV programmes?

That would have to be the West Wing - 7 seasons of fantastic drama that always keeps me riveted. Thank goodness for TV shows on DVD so I can watch them when I am travelling.

Who in the world (including NZ) would you most like to have a coffee and a chat with and why?

I would love to have a coffee/chat/sing with Jose Carreras - The man has the most magnificent voice and is a living legend.

If you could have one wish granted what would it be?

World peace or a cure for HIV/AIDS.

What's coming up in the near future for you?

I am off to Brisbane for a family Christmas and in the New Year I am attending the NZ Opera School in Wanganui, after which I travel for a short stint to Hamilton. After January, I am focusing on completing my Masters degree aiming to be finished by May.

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Matt Akersten - 8th November 2009